In the four years prior to Jon Jones claiming the UFC light heavyweight title, the belt changed hands four times. Only two fighters successfully defended the belt, and that’s counting Lyoto Machida’s highly questionable decision win over Mauricio “Shogun” Rua.
In the 400 days since Jones decimated Rua to become the youngest champion in UFC history, the talented 24-year-old has already collected a trio of successful title defenses, all of which have come against former champions. It has only taken 13 months, but Jones has already established himself as one of the greatest champions in UFC history, and he’s just getting started.
Jon “Bones” Jones
Overall Record: 16-1
UFC Record: 10-1
Youngest Champion in UFC History
We’re watching history in the making every time Jon Jones steps into the cage.
Saturday night, Jones defeated Rashad Evans in the culmination of their yearlong feud. While Evans was the first opponent to make it to the final bell opposite “Bones” since Stephan Bonnar at UFC 94, there was no question who came away with the victory. Though Evans landed a few solid strikes here and there, Jones controlled the contest, earning a unanimous decision win over his former training partner to push his record to 16-1 overall.
The more he fights, the more his disqualification loss to Matt Hamill looks like it will remain the isolated blemish on his resume. Evans, like fellow former champions Lyoto Machida, “Rampage” Jackson, and “Shogun” Rua before him, had no answer for the ingenuity and complete skill set Jones brings into the cage. Saturday night’s contest was supposed to be his toughest test to date, and “Bones” once again passed with flying colours.
At this point, it doesn’t look like there is anyone in the light heavyweight division who can hang with the dominant champion.
Veteran Dan Henderson has already been named as Jones’ next opponent, but save for landing an overhand rights like the one that blew up Michael Bisping at UFC 100, will anyone be giving the 41-year-old much of a chance?
Though Henderson will bring a four-fight winning streak into the contest, the man who tired dramatically in his five-round Fight of the Year affair with Rua back in November appears to be no match for the inventive and rangy reigning champion. Truth be told, no one does at this point.
Jones is a special talent; a true once in a lifetime type of fighter.
He’s elevated his game with every successive fight; each subsequent victory an improvement over his last impressive performance. While just about everyone predicated big things for Jones when he was still a rough-around-the-edges prospect training in his home state of New York, no one could have expected his ascension into the greatest of all-time debate to come this quickly.
In just four years, Jones has gone from making his debut as a fighter to being the most dominant champion in the history of the UFC light heavyweight division, and a legitimate inclusion in the never-ending G.O.A.T. debate.
Tito Ortiz, who currently holds the record for most consecutive title defenses, never faced a Murderer’s Row of opposition like Jones has dispatched in the last 13 months. For all the success Chuck Liddell enjoyed, Jones is one more win away from equaling “The Iceman” in successful title defenses.
While Anderson Silva currently stands at the top of most list of the best to ever grace the cage, Jones isn’t too far off, and the scary thing is he’s only 24-years-old. Even if he only wanted to fight until he was 30, he’s still got another five-plus years to rack up wins, and potentially chase down the records Silva has established inside the Octagon.
Jones may not face another true test in the light heavyweight ranks. Outside of Henderson, the list of potential challengers is incredibly shallow.
Swedish talent Alexander Gustafsson has proven knockout power, but his ground game remains a work in progress, and a weakness Jones would surely exploit. The lone man to best the Swede, Phil Davis, is as decorated a collegiate wrestler as there is in MMA today, but he was out-wrestled by Evans, and his striking is still trying to catch up to his acumen on the mat. Everyone else in the 205-pound ranks has either already been disposed of by the champion or never risen high enough in the rankings to show up on his radar.
Though he’s only been champion for a little over a year, Jones is already getting dangerously close to Georges St-Pierre territory, where challenges are dispatched with such ease that fans start to lose interest and undervalue his victories.
That’s a long way to come in only four years, and that’s why I can say with confidence and ease that Jon Jones is making history happen right before our eyes.